If I told you that your audience was slightly hard of hearing, what would you do differently? Immediately, you’d come up with an adaptive strategy or plan. You might say, “speak a little slower,” or “speak a little louder,” or “use visuals.” You’d do those things, because you were convinced that the audience was slightly hard of hearing.
What I’m saying now is that your audience IS perpetually distracted and drowning in information. Just because they’re sitting in a closed room in a meeting with you doesn’t mean they can focus any better. You must use brevity as an adaptive strategy to get to the point and hold their attention.
In this week’s episode of the Just Saying podcast, Why People Struggle to Get to the Point, I describe the seven capital sins of brevity and how they often get between you and the point you’re trying to make.
THE SEVEN CAPITAL SINS OF BREVITY
While researching and writing my book, I discovered seven reasons why people struggle with brevity. Not only was I observing the behavior of others, I was looking at myself, too. I had to acknowledge some of the issues with which I struggle.
Here are the Seven Capital Sins of Brevity:
It takes courage to be clear and definitive. It takes courage to stand out and say what you mean. What if the boss / client / colleague doesn’t agree?
2) Confidence: Just because you’re a subject-matter expert doesn’t give you permission to go on and on.
3) Callousness: Some people know they are long-winded, and they really don’t care. They believe that what they are saying is more important than anything anyone else has to do.
4) Comfort: Some people get comfortable, and once they get on a roll, they can’t (or won’t) stop themselves. They come into your office and ask, “Hey, do you have a minute?” Then they sit down and stay for a while.
5) Confusion: Clear understanding leads to clear communication. If something is jumbled in your mind, you won’t explain it clearly. Imagine how your audience feels.
6) Complication: Some people enjoy being the smartest person in the room trying to explain a complicated concept, rather than doing the work to simplify that concept for their audience.
7) Carelessness: These folks truly have no idea that their audience already is overwhelmed and saturated with information from multiple sources. It’s not even on their radar.
You cannot make communication a strength unless you understand your own weaknesses. Chances are, one or more of these items cause you to struggle with brevity. I still struggle with some of these, and I have to make an effort to get better. I have a time-limit on my podcasts (about 10 minutes) because I know I could go on and on about this!
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About the author: Joe McCormack is on a mission to help progressive organizations master concise communication. Joe works with Fortune 500 companies and elite special operations units, is the founder of The Brief Lab and author of Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less. Follow us on Twitter @TheBriefLab